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Last chance to record archaic Greek language 'heading for extinction'

🌈 Abstract

The article discusses the efforts to preserve Romeyka, an endangered millennia-old variety of Greek language, through a new data crowdsourcing platform. Romeyka is considered a linguistic goldmine and a living bridge to the ancient world, but it is facing extinction due to factors like extensive contact with Turkish, lack of intergenerational transmission, and migration. The article highlights the key findings about Romeyka's development and grammar, its historical context, and the importance of preserving heritage languages.

🙋 Q&A

[01] Last chance to record archaic Greek language 'heading for extinction'

1. What is the goal of the new data crowdsourcing platform for Romeyka?

  • The goal of the new crowdsourcing platform is to preserve the sound of Romeyka, an endangered millennia-old variety of Greek.
  • The platform invites members of the public from anywhere in the world to upload audio recordings of Romeyka being spoken.

2. Why is Romeyka considered a linguistic goldmine and a living bridge to the ancient world?

  • Romeyka is thought to have descended from Hellenistic Greek, not Medieval Greek, making it distinct from other Modern Greek dialects.
  • It has retained the infinitive form found in ancient Greek, which has been lost in all other Greek dialects known today.
  • This suggests there is more than one Greek language on par with the Romance languages, rather than Modern Greek being an isolate language.

3. What are the key factors contributing to the endangerment of Romeyka?

  • Extensive contact with Turkish
  • Absence of support mechanisms to facilitate intergenerational transmission
  • Socio-cultural stigma
  • Migration

4. What is the significance of the new field work sites discovered by Professor Sitaridou?

  • Professor Sitaridou has started field work in a new site, Tonya, where no other field worker has reached before.
  • The work in Tonya has revealed significant grammatical variation between the valleys, indicating different patterns and diachronic development of the syntax of subordination and negation systems compared to the Çaykara variety.

[02] Preservation of heritage languages and why it matters

1. What are the challenges faced in raising the status of Romeyka as a minority and heritage language?

  • Speakers are reluctant to identify Romeyka as one of their languages, as for Turkish nationalists, speaking Greek goes against the fundamentals of one's belonging.
  • From a Greek nationalist perspective, these varieties are deemed 'contaminated' and/or disruptive to the ideology of one single Greek language spoken uninterruptedly since antiquity.

2. How has Professor Sitaridou used her research to raise awareness and enhance attitudes towards Romeyka?

  • In Greece, Turkey and beyond, Sitaridou has used her research to raise awareness of Romeyka and stimulate language preservation efforts.
  • In Greece, she co-introduced a pioneering new course on Pontic Greek at the Democritus University of Thrace, as the number of speakers of Pontic Greek is also dwindling.

3. Why is raising the status of minority and heritage languages crucial for social cohesion?

  • When speakers can speak their home languages, they feel "seen" and more connected to the rest of the society.
  • Not speaking the heritage or minority languages creates a form of trauma that undermines the integration which linguistic assimilation takes pride in achieving.
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